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EDITIONS
Monday, 27 May, 2002, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Drowned boy was 'exceptional'
Max Palmer and mother Patricia
Max and his mother were dragged downstream
The relatives of a 10-year-old boy who drowned in the Lake District accompanying a school trip with his mother have described him as "exceptional."

Max Palmer was swept away in a small flooded river near Glenridding in Cumbria.

He was with older children on a trip from the Lancashire school where his mother, Patricia, works.

She tried to save him, but was also swept 100 metres downstream.

Glenridding graphic

Elaine Blair, Max Palmer's aunt, said; "This is devastating news for our family, friends, and anyone who knew Max Palmer - a truly exceptional little boy.

"Max was a happy, bright, student with many friends, a keen footballer.

"His smile touched everyone's hearts and he was such a special light in all our lives."

Margaret Dudley, headteacher at Fleetwood High School, where Mrs Palmer worked, said Max was a pupil at a local primary school and described him as a "bright young boy".

An investigation involving both the police and the Health and Safety Executive has been launched into the tragedy, in which another child was airlifted to hospital.

Police have begun interviewing pupils and teachers from Fleetwood High School.

Detective Chief Inspector Bill Whitehead of Cumbria Police said: "We are also appealing for any other groups, walkers or ramblers who may have been in the area at the time."

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Carter added: "Our inquiries will also include who was on the trip and what their roles and responsibilities were."

Mrs Dudley said:"Max went along on the school trip with his mother. When an accident like this happens it just shocks the whole school."

Glenridding beck, Cumbria
Max was with older pupils who were bathing

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said specialist staff will be offering counselling to teachers and children at both schools.

Patterdale mountain rescue team, out on a training exercise in the area, rushed to the river, where they managed to resuscitate Mrs Palmer.

But the team doctor pronounced the boy dead at the scene.

Mrs Palmer was airlifted to Furness General Hospital suffering from mild hypothermia.


If we were involved in the same mountain river walk activity we would have to ensure we had carried out a full assessment of the hazards involved

Steve Howe, Outward Bound Trust

He and his colleagues used a rope system to bring Mrs Palmer and a second child down from the beck, which was about 400 metres from a nearby youth hostel.

The second child suffered cold and a grazed ankle.

Steve Howe, director of the Outward Bound Trust, which has a centre in nearby Ulswater, said schools should be governed by the same safety regulations as other adventure activity organisers.

He said: "We are governed by licence. If we were involved in the same mountain river walk activity we would have to ensure we had carried out a full assessment of the hazards involved.

"It would appear to be an anomaly in that you could have had two groups on the same day doing the same activity, one with a licence and one without."

Another tragedy

Inspector Paul Kissack, of Cumbria Police, said: "Part of this course involved what's described as a controlled river activity and during this activity a young 10-year-old boy tragically became overpowered by the force of the river and was swept downstream."

It is the second time in 20 months that a child has drowned in a river during a school trip.

Earlier this year, a coroner asked the government to take action to prevent another tragedy like the one in which two schoolgirls were swept to their deaths in a river.

Hannah Black, 13, and Rochelle Cauvet, 14, died after they lost their footing and were washed down Stainforth Beck, near Settle, North Yorkshire, on October 10, 2000.

The "river walk" activity was part of a residential week planned by Royds School, in Oulton, near Leeds.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"Max Palmer's fellow pupils were said to be devastated"
Iain Peter of the Mountain Training Trust
"It's terribly difficult for those responsible for youngsters"

Click here to go to BBC Cumbria

Click here to go to Lancashire
See also:

27 May 02 | England
27 May 02 | UK Education
08 Mar 02 | UK Education
07 Mar 02 | England
27 Feb 02 | England
19 Feb 02 | England
08 Mar 02 | England
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